To end the suspense, the answer to the title question about when is the optimal time to buy a home in Greater Seattle has been officially answered. The answer is, more or less, “now.” All right, there’s an alternate answer, “as soon as practical”—but that is a less dramatic-sounding version of the same thing.
The official nature of that answer is due to its source, generally considered to be the apex of the residential real estate industry: the National Association of Realtors®. The “®” is there after “Realtor” because the group literally owns the word “Realtor”—that’show much of an industry leader NAR is!
I’m a member because of all the resources it makes available for the benefit of my Greater Seattle clients. Among the raft of those is a steady stream of research about the market, new and proposed Washington and national legislation, and a wide range of new information about selling and buying a home.
Since its pronouncements need to accurately reflect conditions throughout the country—informing more than a million brokers and agents—its words are (as you’d expect) carefully weighed. Which brings us around to the single best time for buying a home, which the Association shared on January 23: “before 2017 ends.”
Three “crucial” reasons were presented in Lisa Gordon’s presentation, each of which is hard to argue with:
· Tick! tick! Mortgage rates are rising. No one can be 100% certain of future offerings by Seattle’s home lenders, yet there has seldom been such unanimity in signals that the future points upward. That means that who lock in rates early should see meaningful savings when it comes to buying a home. To drive the point home, the article harkened back to 1981 and the 18% mortgages buyers had to face. Today it hovers above 4%.
· Tick! tick! tick! Fewer homes on the market. This national trend has consistently moved in the same direction. By November, the number of homes on the market had fallen by nearly 10% from the previous year: a precipitous drop. The Seattle listings aren’t always in lockstep with national trends, but the potential for even stiffer competition between buyers when spring and summer activity peaks is quite real.
· Tick! tick! tick! tick! Prices are still rising. “We have yet to see a price ceiling,” is what one agent says—and the sales figures bear him out. After the 5% rise in 2016, even pessimistic projections anticipate higher prices.
For sure, neither the NAR nor I are neutral observers when it comes to selling and buying homes—so the hurry-up reasoning might warrant a degree of skepticism. But the changes in Washington have added a new factor barely touched on in the NAR piece: uncertainty. If you are among those planning on buying a home in Seattle at some time in the future, that might be the most convincing argument of all. The current listings and Seattle’s real estate environment are knowns—and they are, by historic standard, pretty terrific.